By Chris Marchand
The federal government has committed some long overdue funds towards researching Lyme Disease.
Sufferers of the debilitating condition are often left to fend for themselves in a health care system that lacks an established protocol on how to diagnose and treat the notoriously tricky illness.
Kenora MP Bob Nault says the issue has long been one of great concern to him as evidence mounts that Lyme-carrying black-legged deer ticks (whose bite transmits the disease) are well-established in the region.
“It is here, it is an issue,” said Bob Nault. “There are people with Lyme disease in the riding. When I started to do some research and inquiries on their behalf with the ministers of health both provincially and federally, it became very clear that Canada itself hadn’t really done a lot research to better understand Lyme Disease — how to diagnose and treat it. This has culminated over the last year with a roundtable discussion with some of the key players in Ottawa. The minister has come forward with a federal framework and committing resources of $4 million to start the process and fund the research.”
The funding will be focused on surveillance, research, sharing of best practices, laboratory diagnostics and testing, prevention education, and public education and awareness.
If caught within a few weeks of an infected tick bite, antibiotic treatment can all but prevent the illness from taking hold in a patient. If given a chance to establish itself Lyme Disease delivers ceaseless progression of debilitating symptoms that can leave doctors and patients baffled.
Dryden resident and Lyme disease sufferer Sara Brunner says that while the federal government’s actions are a very small step in the right direction, the sum of $4 million is ‘a drop in the bucket’ when considering the financial burden many Lyme patients have shouldered by seeking medical attention outside the Canadian system.
“If we are to speak of treatment on its own, we have personally spent over $150,000 so far and expect that this will cost at least $200,000 over the long term,” said Brunner. “Do the math — divide $4 million by $200,000. That equals 20 patients’ treatment for Lyme Disease. This doesn’t even touch on what long term effects and disabilities we might have because we’ve been infected.”
“I strongly believe that moving forward it is crucial to have an evidence-based approach to diagnosing and treating Lyme Disease, but $4 million dollars feels like a slap-in-the-face.”